The pound to dollar rate has reversed its gains from earlier in the week – a surge that had seen it touch the 1.39 benchmark for the first time since April 2018. News that the latest UK inflation reading came in higher than the consensus forecast was not enough to arrest its slide lower. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the consumer prices index rose to 0.7% in January – up from 0.6% a month earlier. Rising food prices were primarily responsible for nudging inflation up last month, during what have been the toughest lockdown restrictions since the first wave of the pandemic.
The ONS also reported that house prices were 8.5% higher in December than 12 months earlier – up from a 7.1% rise in November – which represents the biggest year-on-year increase since October 2014. This has driven the average price up to a new record high of £252,000, amid the scramble to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday.
Bank of England (BoE) Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden banged the drum for the central bank’s bond-buying programme yesterday and indicated that the BoE’s consideration of negative interest rates represented contingency planning: “My overall take on QE is still that it is a tried and tested tool. For me, it is the marginal monetary policy tool at present.”
Fed Officials Offer Downbeat Assessment of US Economy
Dollar strength contributed to pound’s slide lower on Wednesday after rising Treasury yields and upbeat economic data gave it a boost. US retail sales and producer prices data exceeded forecasts, pointing towards a stronger-than-expected economic recovery from the pandemic-fuelled recession, as vaccine rollouts gain momentum.
US retail sales jumped by the most in seven months in January, with sales up 5.3% on a seasonally adjusted basis against the previous month – beating forecasts of 1.1% growth. US producer prices increased by the most since 2009 in January, after the producer price index for final demand jumped 1.3%.
Minutes from the January meeting of Federal Open Market Committee members showed that US monetary policymakers believe the economy is “far from” the central bank’s goals. The meeting summary said it will probably “take some time for substantial further progress to be achieved,” reaffirming that Fed officials will likely keep policy loose well into the future.
A barren day in the UK’s economic calendar means investors must wait for tomorrow’s slew of releases: GfK Consumer Confidence for February, Retail Sales reports, and most notably the Markit Services PMI for February.
In contrast, the docket is congested in the US today: Building Permits, Housing Starts, Continuing Jobless Claims, Initial Jobless Claims, Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Survey.
Get in touch ahead of these data releases to discuss their potential impact on your upcoming currency exchange.